July 17, 2018

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The Future of Headhunters

In the war for talent the pendulum has shifted; today headhunters are challenged with making placements in a soft labor economy, overwhelmed with high unemployment and few available job orders. This article will focus on what recruiters should do to maximize their placement opportunities and strengthen their position in the talent acquisition space.

With only a few quality job orders available, recruiters must maximize their placement opportunities by doing a better job of communicating their consultative value to employers throughout the entire interview process. One of the major reasons placements are lost is because the interview process is often flawed. In the race for talent, the integrity of the interview process is often compromised because most employers, while utilizing the "e-Recruiting" approach in hiring talent, often omit a number of vital steps. In order to fully understand the effects of the flawed interview process, one must first look at the "e-Recruiting" approach and the vital steps that are lost.

In the late 1990's employers were challenged with finding skilled talent in a growing economy characterized by a diminished talent pool as trained workers abandoned their traditional jobs for more lucrative opportunities. To meet the increasing demand of acquiring talent, employers attentively listened to the new leaders of the recruiting industry (IT Executives that recently entered the recruiting industry market space) and as a result, abandoned the traditional method of recruitment. The IT Executives effectively communicated the new concept of electronic recruitment to employers; one that would allow the employer to find qualified candidates directly, stream-line their interview process and reduce/eliminate placement fees paid to headhunters. The e-Recruiting concept utilizes the Internet to electronically link the employer's current job openings to a Major Job Board (i.e. Monster) which potentially leads interested candidates back to the employers' corporate website where candidates can electronically submit resumes for specific job postings. The submitted resumes are then processed by a "back-end" applicant tracking system that route the resumes to the specific hiring manager for evaluation. The qualification of the internal recruiter who administers the applicant tracking system is typically a younger high-tech savvy employee.

Pitfalls of e-Recruiting

Recruiters view themselves as both producers and consultants in the talent acquisition process and will argue the following:

  • The cost incurred by the employers for making the wrong hiring decisions greatly exceeds the cost of utilizing the services of professional headhunters.

  • Utilizing the e-Recruiting concept in talent acquisition might be useful in generating a constant flow of resumes, however, employers often waste quality time chasing the "job shoppers" while the serious candidate often slipped through their fingers.

  • The e-Recruiting concept is more effective than newspaper advertising for hiring lower level generalist positions where the possible candidates are most likely unemployed or "job hoppers". However, the e-Recruiting concept is less effective in hiring highly specialized talent because candidates in this group are more likely to be gainfully employed and are not actively seeking employment. As such, they are motivated only in advancing their careers by finding the right opportunity, with the right employer, at the right level of compensation. Employers that rely on e-Recruiting as their primary recruitment tool will experience many offer declinations by the high demand, specialized candidates who are always susceptible to accept a counter-offer to remain with his present employer or delay his decision making process and then accept a similar job offer from another employer.

Missing Steps

The vital steps that are often taken lightly or omitted entirely from the interview process are candidate feedback, interview coordination and offer presentation. Historically, these steps were administered by professional headhunters who often acted as liaison between the candidates and the employer during the interview process. How important are these steps? Staffing experts will view these steps as critical to the interview process because employers won't extend a job offer simply by looking at a person's resume, or a candidate wont quit his present job simply by reading an employer's job description. Both decisions are based on the interpretations and communication of events that take place during the interview process. More specifically, the qualifications, track record and the reputation of the candidate can only gain that candidate an interview with the employer, but it is the performance of the candidate during the interview that will most likely grant that candidate a job offer. Like wise, the employer's reputation, prestige and the job opportunity can only attract potential candidates to an interview, but it is the performance of the employer during the interview will have a positive impact on possibly employing that candidate.

Perception of Headhunters

Good Headhunters add consultative value to the interview process, so why do employers often exclude headhunters from the process? Unfortunately, in the eyes of employers, headhunters are rapidly losing credibility and are often viewed as pushy sales people who are only interested in earning a commission. The reasons employers view headhunters in this manner are as followed:

  • Headhunters often disrupt the employer's internal structure by doing an "end-around" to circumvent the HR coordinator from the process and directly contact the hiring manager to introduce their candidates.

  • In their attempt to speed-up the interview process, headhunters often bombard HR personnel with numerous and unnecessary phone calls.

  • Headhunters will aggressively encourage a higher compensation for their candidates because a higher compensation earns a higher placement fee to the headhunter.

  • Headhunters often coach their candidates to give stock answers the employer wants to hear from applicants during the interview.

  • Headhunters are no longer spending quality time to source and pre-qualify candidates; they are increasingly presenting the same marginal unemployed, job hopping candidates found on the Internet that have already applied directly to the employer.

What Should Headhunters do?

In order to strengthen their position in the talent acquisition process, headhunters should:

  • Pick up the phone more often and utilize less e-mail in building a trustful relationship with employers.

  • Focus more on their true strength which is finding qualified candidates by networking within their specialized industry and rely less on finding marginal candidates by posting to job boards and searching resume databases.

  • Assist employers in significantly expediting the turn-around time in getting the right candidate hired.

  • Reduce the employer's chances of getting "jilted at the altar" by a candidate that the employer really wants to hire.

  • Be accessible 24/7 to save valuable time so employers can focus on pertinent company matters. This means employers will spend less of their quality time playing "telephone tag" trying to catch up with a busy candidate who must be updated on critical interview agendas.

Employers are continuously seeking innovative ideas that will increase revenue; reduce cost and improve efficiencies; as such they are always open to ideas on recruitment and staffing issues. They listened to the IT guys and the results were "six in one hand and a half dozen in the other hand", now is the time for headhunters to step up and solidify their position in talent acquisition space.

-Ken Forrester
Ken Forrester is Managing Director of A.W. Forrester Co.. a National executive search firm that specializes in employee benefits consulting, health insurance brokerage and sales. Mr. Forrester has 12 years of recruitment experience and is responsible for completing search assignments for senior management positions while developing and mentoring junior associates. Mr. Forrester can be reached at (954) 722-7554.